15 Jan 2013

Homes destroyed in bushfire, most of observatory saved

6:04 am on 15 January 2013

A bushfire has destroyed at least 33 properties in northern New South Wales, but most of a leading observatory has been saved.

The fire in the Warrumbungle National Park in the north-west of the state has burnt out nearly 40,000 hectares and has a 100km-wide front by Monday night.

About 100 people living in the area have been forced to evacuate their homes as officials warn the amount of properties lost could rise, the ABC reports.

The fire was burning in a northerly direction away from Timor Road and was about 1km south of Bugaldie on Monday.

The Rural Fire Service has confirmed 33 properties and more than 50 sheds have been destroyed, as well as machinery and there have been extensive stock losses.

Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers says the fire burned on Sunday with a ferocity not seen for many years in the state.

Staff from the Siding Spring Observatory in the national park were evacuated to Coonabarabran due to the blaze.

One building at the facility - Australia's top optical and infrared observatory - was destroyed, but the main telescope has survived.

A watch and act alert has been issued for another fire, north-east of Coonabarabran, which has closed the Newell Highway.

The Rural Fire Service says the two-hectare blaze is burning out of control, but is not threatening properties on Monday night.

A fire near Eugowra, east of Forbes, which jumped containment lines in the afternoon, has been brought back under control. There were concerns it would reach the nearby Nangar National Park but crews are working to strengthen containment lines.

Across the state, firefighters were expecting some reprieve, with milder weather conditions forecast and winds tending to the south.

Firefighter dies in Tasmania

A Victorian firefighter aged in his 60s has died while fighting bushfires in Tasmania, AAP reports.

The man died while conducting backburning operations at Taranna, east of Hobart.

Fires described as the state's worst since 1967 have destroyed more than 130 homes, with the damage concentrated on the Tasman and Forestier peninsulas.

The major thoroughfare to the Tasman Peninsula, the Arthur Highway, was reopened on Sunday.